"Marriage was the deepest, most mysterious, most profound exploration open to humankind; she had always believed that, and she believed it now. . . . The plunging into one another's soul . . . was the closest one could come to a sacred adventure."
Joyce Carol Oates in Marriage and Infidelities
Anyone who has been in a committed relationship for a long time knows that love just has to be stronger than death. Think of all the times you have finished each other's sentences, come up with the same idea, and felt the joy of connection even when miles apart. Soulmates also believe that love by its very nature is always bringing ever new bounties. Increase is built into the relationship.
So if all these wonders, synchronicities, and magic moments are the stuff of everyday life on Earth, then what of the graces that will abound when your loved one leaves his or her physical body? Will he or she stay in touch from beyond the grave? Many soulmates have already experienced such experiences of communication.
Dragonfly is an engrossing drama that explores this sacred adventure. Kevin Costner plays a doctor who becomes convinced that his wife is trying to reach him from the afterlife. The film directed by Tom Shadyac (Patch Adams) is a deeply spiritual work that is bound to stir discussion about marriage, love, death, afterlife, and faith.
Dragonfly is rated PG-13 for thematic material and mild sexuality. For our review of the film and a plot synopsis, click here.
1. A BROADER RANGE OF HUMAN POSSIBILITY
In A Little Book on Love, Jacob Needleman writes: "The point is that a relationship is like a small world by itself. In the world at large the seductive hypnotic influences of life are completely separate from the influences that favor inner freedom. But in a relationship between two people sharing the search, each one can act on the other in a way that brings one in front of a much broader range of human possibility."
- How is Emily described in the eulogy at her memorial service? What exact words are used to describe the love relationship between Joe and Emily by one of their friends over a meal?
- Needleman believes that soulmates in a loving relationship can explore the furthest reaches of inner freedom and "a broader range of human possibility." What hints of these have you discovered in your marriage or partnership?
2. KEEP WALKING TOWARD THAT LOVE
In her account of an afterlife love relationship, Love Is Stronger Than Death, Cynthia Bourgeault writes: " 'Death does not have to mean the end of relationship and the slow receding of love,' Henri Nouwen wrote shortly before his own death. 'When one has loved deeply, that love can actually grow stronger after death.' To discover how this is actually so is the fascinating and miraculous invitation open in this life to those who have loved deeply and are willing to keep walking toward that love."
- What is Joe's attitude toward death and the afterlife? What guilt does he bear in regard to his wife's trip to South America?
- Do you believe that love can actually grow stronger after the death of someone you cherish? What spiritual resources have guided you in your understanding of these mysterious matters?
3. DRAGONFLY MEDICINE
In Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams and David Carson write of the Native American understanding of the symbolic significance and teachings of the dragonfly: "The iridescence of dragonfly wings remind us of colors not found in our everyday experience. . . . Dragonfly medicine always beckons you to seek out the parts of your habits which you need to change."
- Why do you think the dragonfly was a good “totem” for Emily and later for Joe? Dragonfly also signals the shattering of illusions. What illusion does Joe have to move beyond?
- Do you have an animal totem that has played a transformative role in your life? What is it and what has it taught you?
In Returnings: Life-after-Death Experiences: A Christian View, John Aurelio writes: "Supposing we were to take water and pour it out on the ground. In the splash, tiny droplets, some microscopic, would rise up like mist from a waterfall. In the blazing sunlight, a single drop could become transfixed as the purifying sun shone through it. When the light gets 'prismed' through it a new form emerges a rainbow."
- Share your responses to the accounts of Jeffrey and Ben regarding their messages from Emily to Joe.
- Have you ever had a near-death experience or do you know anyone who has? What is your view on this spiritual phenomenon? What religious stories or myths are connected to rainbows?
"Faith," writes Maurice Nicoll in New Man, "is a continued inner effort, a continual altering of the mind, of the habitual ways of thought, of the habitual ways of taking everything, of habitual reactions."
- What role does Sister Madeline play in Joe's quest? Share your interpretations of the following explanation she gives him: "If we create this world with what we imagine, why not the next? Belief gets us there."
- In what ways do you identify with Joe's struggle of moving from the rational position of only believing what he can see and prove to a faith perspective that acts upon his inner voice?
6. GOING THE DISTANCE
"True love expresses the sacred promise that love is stronger than death. And in going the distance on this promise, the two beloveds drink deeply of that complete self-surrender in love that is the heart of all spiritual experience," Cynthia Bourgeault has written.
- Discuss your reactions to the advice of the following people in Joe's life: his boss Hugh Campbell, his neighbor Mrs. Belmont, and his doctor colleague Charlie Dickinson. What personal qualities does Joe have that enable him to continue his quest even in the face of criticism and disbelief from those closest to him?
- What events or experiences in your life have enabled you to subscribe to the idea that love is stronger than death?
7. LIFE HAS DEPTHS TO IT
”We believe that death does not have the last word. Life has depths to it which death does not touch; it has heights which death cannot reach; it has powers which death cannot quell," Samuel Miller has written in Man the Believer.
- Share your heart feelings to the final scenes in the film.
- What spiritual messages does this afterlife film convey to you?
This guide is one in a series of more than 200 Values & Visions Guides written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Text copyright 2002 by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures. This guide is posted as a service to visitors to www.SpiritualityandPractice.com. It may not be photocopied, reprinted, or distributed electronically without permission from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.